Wednesday, September 7, 2011
NFC West: Injury situations that matter
By Mike Sando
Arizona Cardinals: Strong safety Adrian Wilson practiced without limitation Wednesday one month after tearing a right biceps tendon. Amazing, indeed. The meaningful question remains unanswered. To what degree is Wilson at risk for aggravating the injury, perhaps in a manner that ends his season? Reports suggested Wilson suffered the tear near his elbow, where only one tendon attaches (two attach near the shoulder). A complete tear near the elbow would require surgery to repair. Wilson obviously doesn't have a tear to that degree. The other significant injury for Arizona will not show up on the team's official report. Rookie running back Ryan Williams is out for the year, putting added pressure on Beanie Wells to stay healthy and produce this season. Backup quarterback John Skelton remains limited by an ankle injury, but Rich Bartel was arguably the better option in the No. 2 role anyway, at least right now.
St. Louis Rams: Tight end Mike Hoomanawanui did not participate in practice Wednesday. He has a calf strain. Coach Steve Spagnuolo previously expressed fear that returning too soon could lead to a longer-term injury. The Rams want Hoomanawanui for the long term. I'd be surprised if they brought him back quickly. Erring on the side of caution seems like their likely approach. Stephen Spach's signing this week gives them a veteran player with experience in their offense, another reason to consider giving Hoomanawanui time to make a fuller recovery. This injury is a significant one for the Rams. They went through camp wanting to use Hoomanawanui and rookie tight end Lance Kendricks together with Steven Jackson alone in the backfield. They felt confident that combination could help them dictate favorable matchups by forcing defenses to choose whether to take a linebacker off the field. Some of those options could remain with Spach on the field, but they would be diminished to a degree. James Hall's sore back is another injury to watch. He tweaked the back while colliding with teammate Chris Long when meeting at the quarterback against Jacksonville during preseason. Hall was limited in practice Wednesday. He's coming off a 10.5-sack season.
San Francisco 49ers: Receiver Michael Crabtree's status will command much of the injury-related attention from 49ers practices this week. A broken left foot has kept Crabtree off the field since early June. He'll be rusty when he returns even if the 49ers are right in saying Crabtree has done everything possible to learn the playbook, stay engaged, etc. Crabtree's rapport with quarterback Alex Smith came into question even when they were practicing together daily. It's tough to envision that situation improving without the two working together on the field recently. It's a bonus, in other words, if Crabtree makes an immediate impact in a significant way. Initial reports suggested Crabtree was running routes at nearly full speed Wednesday. Free safety Dashon Goldson could be limited by a knee injury, but the 49ers like their depth at safety this season, particularly with Reggie Smith returning.
Seattle Seahawks: Left tackle Russell Okung is back from a sprained ankle and expected to start. His progress during the week is critical heading into a matchup against 49ers defensive end Justin Smith. Left guard Robert Gallery and receiver Sidney Rice missed practice Wednesday. Rice hasn't been on the field much lately, but he does have extensive experience with Tarvaris Jackson from their days together in Minnesota. That could come into play on game day even if Rice, slowed by a shoulder injury, does not practice much. Gallery's injured knee will likely force the Seahawks to use line combinations against the 49ers in Week 1. Rookie James Carpenter is working at left guard some in practice, with Breno Giacomini at right tackle. Carpenter still projects as the long-term starter at right tackle. In the meantime, the Seahawks will try to win a game. Carpenter played on the left side extensively in college and would have more help in pass protection playing on the interior. That's a significant consideration for the Seahawks after Carpenter struggled in pass protection during preseason. As line coach Tom Cable said of Carpenter on draft day, "He’s a guy we’ll start the process with at right tackle knowing he has the ability to move around if we need to." On defense, linebacker David Hawthorne has missed time recently, but coach Pete Carroll said he expected Hawthorne back on the field.